2017 Multidisciplinary Conference on Jungian Psychology Sponsored by the International Association for Jungian Studies
The conference will be held at the Centre for the Book, a unit of the National Library of South Africa, which is located in the center of Cape Town and is encircled by a variety of hotels, gardens, galleries, and museums. Cape Town was the location of the first public speech that focused on the beginning of democratic elections and a new era for South Africa, made by Nelson Mandela on February 11, 1990 after his release from imprisonment during the period of Apartheid. Today, Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city that, like many cities across the world, struggles with growth and prosperity alongside ecological change as well as economic disparities and racial divides.
The image for the conference is the African Baobab tree, symbolic of the evolutionary nature of humanity’s individuation—as individuals and at the cultural level. Baobab trees become quite large and hollow out as they grow. Eventually, the tree creates an optical inversion, appearing to be almost upside down — as if its roots are at the top. The tree’s hollowness can be viewed as a metaphor for the development of consciousness and culture: the liminal space that is essential for consciousness and the unconscious to connect.
In this liminal space of the conference setting through papers and discussion it will be presented, on how the contribution made by Jung’s work can be understood when applied to issues of Otherness which are being grappled with both in South Africa and globally. The conference seeks to discuss questions, such as: What have been the negative impacts of such contributions to indigenous people and to those who identify as post-modern? How have indigenous cultures and others, such as the recent influx of refugees into various countries and people who identify as LGBT, carried the shadow projection of non-indigenous people and those in authority and at what price for both? Additional areas that will be explored are Jung’s experience of the Self and other core Jungian concepts, which he came to understand while in the midst of indigenous cultures, and whether they stand the test of time or fall short due to not addressing political realities such as European Colonialism, and, later in time, “Apartheid” and current political issues. Of equal importance, how do these theories and political realities interface with global expressions of humanity’s various spiritual concepts and beliefs?
As we read in his works, Jung had a deep love of indigenous cultures and he described his trip to Africa in 1925 as a spiritual journey, which he associated with the Egyptian Horus Myth. Jung interpreted this mythic drama as depicting the resolution of duality (Horus and Set) and the emergence of consciousness, in which he saw parallels with his own individuation. Regarding the development of the mind through mythological and cultural contexts, and even though he acknowledged the limitation of the term he used, Jung intellectually and conceptually colonized indigenous people with his notions of the “primitive psyche” as archaic and regressive when compared to that of the (modern) Western psyche. In this way, indigenous people constituted an effective foil in Jung’s work and his conceptualization of personhood through the foil of the Other. In this context it can be suggested that Jung harbored a somewhat dichotomous reverence and patronization toward indigenous people.
What richness of thought and experience — and yet, what trauma was reinforced through Jung’s descriptions and dichotomous approach? Kalsched (2013) in his excellent book Trauma and the Soul discussed the Baobab tree which appears in St Exupery’s The Little Prince. In this novella, the tree spreads toxic seeds linking it to noncreative traumatic intergenerational experiences. Kalsched uses the tree and its over-proliferation of seeds to discuss the ‘deadening’ effects of trauma on the development of the self if it is not worked through sufficiently. During the time created by the liminal space of this conference, organizers seek to explore the understandings and actions that are needed now in relation to individuals and communities, and to propose ideas for what needs to be worked through more sufficiently.